This week for ‘Your Edge’ we take a look at the battling Brisbane Broncos, touch on the Sydney Roosters and their chances of a three-peat, highlight Josh Aloiai’s impact on the Wests Tigers, and find out which club has the toughest run to Round 20.
Bad, Bad Broncos
Historically, the Broncos are one of the most successful clubs in the NRL. They’re blessed with almost every benefit a club could ask for, play out of a fortress in Suncorp Stadium, and are one of the best-supported teams in the competition. More recently, they have been said to have an exceptionally bright future ahead thanks to the best young forward pack in the competition.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Through 14 rounds of the 2020 season, the Broncos are the worst attacking and worst defensive team in the NRL. The once high-powered Broncos attack is averaging just 13.3 points per game this season. They’re at their worst in the second half averaging less than one try per game while they’ve scored just two second-half tries in their six games outside Queensland since the competition resumed.
Defensively, the Broncos concede an outrageous 31.2 points per game. Sure, the turnover in players hasn’t helped when it comes to developing cohesion. But despite so many different faces rotating in and out of the side, five Broncos players still make up the top 25 in total try causes this season: Darius Boyd, Kotoni Staggs and Herbie Farnworth with 13; Brodie Croft and Xavier Coates with 12.
To really highlight how far the Broncos have fallen over the last two seasons, the below graph shows a cliff-like fall in their cumulative margin following a consistent climb after the re-hiring of Wayne Bennett in 2015.
Writing off the Roosters
It’s surely a claim built on hope more than anything else, but plenty were quick to appoint a loss to the Melbourne Storm in Round 14 as the end of the Sydney Roosters quest for a three-peat. That is far from the case given how many players they’re missing at the moment, and more importantly, who they are missing.
The Roosters led the NRL in running metres with 1,666 per game on their way to the 2019 premiership. In 2018, they won after running for the second-most metres at 1,537 per game. Sydney’s excellent attack that can pile up points on any defence in a hurry has always been built on a stable platform through the middle. That platform wasn’t there in Round 14 as the Roosters managed just 1,544 metres against a relatively healthy Storm middle – 287 fewer metres than their 1,831 metres per game season average (4th in the NRL).
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – absent against the Storm – remains a grossly underappreciated part of the Roosters makeup through the middle. While he doesn’t display the speed, footwork and the monster numbers Siosuia Taukeiaho (179m) does, Waerea-Hargreaves consistently cracks 130 metres per game and is always there for the toughest carries. Taukeiaho is the only Roosters forward that makes up more of Sydney’s total running metres in a game than the Kiwi international.
Missing since Round 8, Daniel Tupou averaged a career-high 190 running metres per game in his eight matches before injury. James Tedesco is the only player responsible for more of Sydney’s total metres. Brett Morris’ work rate and 127 metres per game on the right wing was also missed in Round 14 while Boyd Cordner (136m) and Angus Crichton (124m) are still to recover from their injuries.
Five of the Roosters eight most important metre-eaters missed the 24-6 loss to the Storm. Their run for a third consecutive premiership is far from over.
Josh Aloiai: Running Wests to Victory
Given the plethora of top tier props running around in the NRL right now along with Wests Tigers extended run in finals-free purgatory, Josh Aloiai’s development is flying under the radar. The 24-year-old has already run for more total metres than any other season in his five-year career while setting a new career-high at 146 metres per game – up from 94 metres per game in 2019.
He has become an integral part of this Tigers side. While Michael Maguire attempts to change the mentality of the playing group by holding anybody he can accountable and dropping them the following week, Aloiai is sure to be one of the first names on the team sheet every Tuesday. Aloiai’s yardage, like we talked about with Daniel Saifiti and the Knights last week, plays a significant role in Wests results.
In the 14 games Aloiai has featured in 2020, he has run for 177 metres in the six games they’ve won and just 123.1 metres in the eight Wests have lost. Their only win when Aloiai failed to crack his season average came against the Cowboys way back in Round 6 when he finished with 136 running metres.
Consistency has been an issue for the Tigers in 2020. At times, it can seem as though the light that shines on a Top 8 spot at the end of the tunnel isn’t getting any closer. While it’s unlikely that the Tigers reach it in 2020, the continued development of Aloiai – who should receive an offer to extend with the club before others are given the chance on November 1 – is a reason to be optimistic for the future.
Strength of Schedule
With the South Sydney Rabbitohs occupying 8th spot on the NRL ladder to be four competition points ahead of the West Tigers and Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at 9th and 10th, the eight finals teams look all but locked in for 2020.
Wests Tigers have the toughest remaining schedule in the competition starting with the defending premiers in Round 15. However, the Rabbitohs still needing to play the second-toughest schedule offers some hope of the two teams switching places by the end of Round 20. But it’s the Sea Eagles that are best positioned to make a run at the finals if Tom Trbojevic does return for Round 17 as planned. They will have the chance to steal two points from the Tigers in Round 17 before playing the Bulldogs (16th), Titans (13th) and Warriors (12th) to end the regular season.